NBLCH

Juneteenth 2020

Looking Back As We Move Forward
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. This day in history is recognized as Juneteenth, which became a holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth was recently catapulted to the front of the national news cycle when President Donald Trump announced he was planning to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this date. The outrage that followed was centered around the insensitivity to the date and the history of the Tulsa Massacre which resulted in hundreds of African Americans in the Greenwood District (Black Wall Street) being murdered.

It has been disheartening to see the level of misinformation around Juneteenth, as well as the Tulsa Massacre. This conversation reinforces the fact we live in a country that continues to struggle with the inhumane treatment of African Americans and continues its effort to erase the truth about the brutality of their experience.

So, as we commemorate this date in history, let us be reminded that there have been many historical dates on which an effort to right the wrongs presented, but each time, another obstacle emerged.
The facts are

  • September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, and on January 1, 1863 he declared all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”. This did not free all slaves.
  • On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate troops to the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant, however, the actual Civil War did not officially end until August 1866.
  • June 19, 1865, Texas declared the enslaved free.
  • December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified and officially ended the institution on slavery.

Fast forward to today – COVID-19, social unrest, and racial injustices continue to impact African Americans. As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must continue to demand systemic changes to address the intersectionality of social determinants of health.

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